Definition and Overview
A kidney health diet consultation is a visit with a renal dietitian as per the referral or recommendation of a urologist or nephrologist, who specialises in conditions that involve or affect the kidneys.
The kidneys are a bean-shaped pair of organs found on each side of the body. They sit close to the adrenal glands, but they are a part of the urinary system and responsible for filtering wastes and other by-products present in the bloodstream.
If the kidneys fail to perform its work properly due to a variety of reasons, the wastes will continue to build up in the body, creating a toxic environment that can be life threatening.
There are different ways to manage kidney conditions or prevent them from occurring, and these include maintaining a special diet designed to protect the kidneys from further harm.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
A kidney diet is necessary for patients who have been diagnosed with a kidney condition, whether it’s acute (sudden but often temporary) or chronic. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 20 million Americans have a certain level of chronic kidney disease, which is characterised by the reduction of kidney function over a specific period.
The kidney's special diet aims to:
- Slow down the progression of the disease
- Avoid more complex treatments like dialysis or kidney transplant
- Maintain the remaining function of the kidney
- Help the patient enjoy a good life despite the prognosis and diagnosis
The diet is equally important to those who are already on dialysis or have undergone a kidney transplant. Healthy kidney nutrition helps the patient cope better with these procedures.
There are also conditions that do not originate in the kidneys but are kidney related. These include diabetes, which can lead to nerve damage known as diabetic nephropathy. In this case, the patient will meet with a dietitian and together, they will work on controlling the effects of diabetes on the kidneys.
Although kidney damage is often associated with poor lifestyle (such as an unhealthy diet and smoking), it can also be caused by heredity, (polycystic kidney disease) or old age. Due to the nature of the illness, a customised kidney diet is crucial.
How Does the Procedure Work?
A person who is at a high risk of developing a kidney disease or has been diagnosed with one is referred to a nephrologist or a urologist, who also handles cases affecting the male reproductive and urinary system. If diet is an integral part of the treatment or management plan, the doctor will refer the patient to a renal dietitian.
During the consultation, the renal dietitian reviews the medical records forwarded by the nephrologist or urologist to better understand the condition of the patient. He will also conduct an interview with the patient, focusing on:
- The everyday diet
- The kinds of food that he can or cannot eat
- Medications taken
- Activities or lifestyle of the patient
- Other factors that may affect diet plan such as a preexisting disease or pregnancy
Following the interview and the review of medical records, the dietitian will proceed by creating a dietary plan. He identifies how much protein, sodium, fat, carbohydrate, potassium and phosphate should be present in every meal. He also shares:
- How much liquid should be consumed in a day
- How the meals should be prepared
- The best times to eat them
- Calorie intake
- How to track calorie and nutrition intake
The initial consultation may take at least an hour, and succeeding visits are to be expected, which will focus on monitoring the progress of the patient.
Possible Risks and Complications
A change in diet is difficult for anyone, more so if certain types of food will be restricted. This may mean that the patient may not be able to follow through with the recommended diet or, in certain cases, lie to the dietitian or avoid the consultation altogether. This can be a huge problem as a poor diet worsens the patient’s condition and chances of survival. To avoid this, the dietitian and kidney doctor should work together to educate the patient on the importance of a proper diet.
- National Kidney Disease Education Program
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention